A year after her 6-year-old son’s death, an Orangeburg mother has turned pain into purpose

She said she is trying to keep herself busy by ensuring her son’s death was not in vain.
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Published: May. 5, 2023 at 9:14 PM EDT

WOODFORD, S.C. (WIS) - An Orangeburg County mother, whose six-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting one year ago this month, is turning her pain into purpose.

Winston Hunter was gunned down inside his home along McClain Street in Woodford on May 13, 2022. That is about five miles from the town of Swansea along Highway 321.

His mother, Courtney Hunter, said it has been an emotional roller-coaster of a year, filled with many highs and lows.

She said she is trying to keep herself busy by ensuring her son’s death was not in vain and is now advocating for ways to reduce gun violence in her community.

“If I just reach one person to put their gun down, I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Hunter said, “So I’m going to continue to move forward, I’m going to continue to fight against gun violence.”

One way she is doing that is through a billboard along Highway 321 in Winston’s hometown, which the family paid for with their own money.

That is just “one step” in the path she’s forged to keep his memory alive, she said.

“My new motto now is ‘What would Winston do?’” Hunter said, “Winston had a lot of dreams. He had a lot of things that he had set for himself, even at the age of six.”

Though small in stature, his family says he was larger than life with his joy and positive attitude.

Hunter said Win-Win, as he was called by loved ones, never met a stranger, and was a friend to all.

“Even on his baseball team, somebody may strike out, he is definitely one of those ones to be like, ‘It’s okay, you got it next time.’ An encourager, I would say.”

Winston had the soul of an old man trapped inside a 6-year-old’s body, his mother says.

“He loved dancing, he loved having fun, he loved family,” Hunter said, “He was always the go-getter. He was always that one to bring joy to the family. We have family night on Friday nights. He was always the one, ‘Let’s do karaoke, let’s do this,’ so he was always the joy of the family.”

Winston once had an assignment at school asking about his hopes and dreams, and he answered it simply.

“He dreamed that everyone in the world would be nice,” Hunter said. “He wanted everyone to get along.”

That mantra has been taken up by his mother, who has set up a foundation in Winston’s honor called Through the Eyes of Winston.

She hopes to provide resources and education to other families who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

“That night changed my whole life,” Hunter said. “It brought the pain that I am dealing with today, the pain, the anger, the issues, I want to let people know that they are not alone. What I’ve been through, I do not want another parent, another grandmother, another brother to go through what we have endured. So I will make this the biggest thing, I will be an advocate against gun violence if that’s the last thing I do.”

Hunter encourages those who are experiencing this pain to take it day by day.

“We’re in this together,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s going to end, but we’re going to get through this day by day. If those days get longer, we’re going to get through it moment by moment.”

Hunter said her heart dropped when she heard about the recent mass shooting at Meadowlake Park in Columbia.

“It touched me because my son, he might have taken the graduation picture, but he did not make it to his graduation day,” she said. “He was six days away from his graduation day, and I have to live with that for a long time.”

Her thoughts are all those impacted high schoolers experiencing this trauma before they graduate.

Another billboard honoring Winston elsewhere in Orangeburg County, sponsored by Unity Fellowship Church.

Hunter hopes to expand the efforts and have more billboards throughout the state.

The family’s foundation will be hosting a “Stop Gun Violence parade” on Saturday, May 13 on the one-year anniversary of Winston’s passing.

The walk begins at 10:30 a.m. at North High School. Line-up begins at 9:30 a.m.

There will be registration, a short program, and free food to follow at 11:30 a.m. at the North town square.

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